How Important is Time Away from Your Child?

As our toddlers played together at the train table in our neighborhood’s coffee shop, another mother and I were talking about summer vacation plans. She was sharing details about a spectacular 10-day  vacation she and her husband took to a resort in Central America last fall. Instantly, my daydreams ferried me to the shade of swaying palms, where I sat on a picnic blanket sharing sweet drinks made from local fruit with my husband and our tyke, adorably clad in a bucket sunhat and buttered up with sunblock.  My husband and I traveled a good amount before we welcomed our son into our lives, and we often talk about what kind of trips we want to take with him when he’s old enough to have fun memories of family travel.

Photo credit: mmsea (Flickr Creative Commons)

I turned to my coffee-swigging mama acquaintance and replied, “I love your sense of adventure–packing up your little one and trekking out of the country like that!” Questions about the logistics of international travel were bubbling up in my brain–infant passport? lengthy air travel? vaccines?–but before I could ask, she responded, “Oh, we didn’t take her. She stayed with grandma.”

Wait, whaaaa?  I quickly did the math, realizing that her daughter was 9 or 10 months old at the time of her parents’ tropical trek out of the country.   Ten whole days? Outside of the country? Without their babe? But…why? How?  I hoped my face belied my shock and confusion. I thought back to my son at that age. In the span of a week around that stage, my son took his first steps. He was nursing every 3 hours or so.  I couldn’t imagine being away from him for one night at that age, let alone a solid week and a half. My chest tightened at the thought. The mama went on to say that it was, indeed, a bit hard being away from her daughter at first, but she and her husband relaxed into their vacation and had a stellar time. Her daughter had a great time bonding with grandma, too, she said, adding with a laugh that her daughter didn’t want to leave grandma’s  when it was time to come home.

I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve left my son in the care of someone else while my husband and I went out. Our friends’ rehearsal dinner; a fancy dinner out and a movie as an early wedding anniversary celebration; and just this past weekend when my husband and I went out to see a late movie. Sprinkled amongst these big events and date nights are the random long solo walks for coffee or a child-free errand jaunt, but seldom has it been, in these almost 18 months, that we’ve gone out without our son.

I’m not judging, complaining or glorifying. It’s what it is: we simply do not feel the need to go out often without him. We’ve never felt the desire to travel without him (in fact, we’d hate that). The first ten years of our marriage were filled with travel (domestic and international), parties with friends,  expensive meals out, and regular concerts and shows. We enjoyed our share of excess. We waited a long time to become parents, and, right now, we simply want to just be with our son.

We have felt pressure from others, though: You guys should go out more! You need time to yourselves!  Don’t feel guilty for going out without him! You’re more than parents, you know! It’s healthy and necessary for your child to develop relationships with other adults!  It’s good for your child to see that you have a social life! The implications and undertones of these kind of statements are irritating at best. We’re not helicoptering. We’re not sheltering. We’re not excluding other adults from our son’s life. Dudes, we just like the company of our kid.  Sue us.

When I do go out, I don’t feel guilty for going out without my kid. But, sometimes, other people make me feel guilty for NOT wanting to go out more without him.  Am I somehow neglecting a part of myself or my marriage by not going out more? I do wonder, but I always come to the same conclusion: nope.

A couple of weekends ago, after I had a particularly trying week at home with my toddler,  my husband took him to a festival in the park, and I took a long shower by myself, blow-dried my hair (a very rare occurrence in my motherhood), put on a cute skirt, grabbed the just-delivered issue of Food & Wine, walked to our other neighborhood coffee shop (the one without a kids’ area), ordered a very large iced Americano, propped my feet up on the shady patio, and read my magazine cover to cover. It was a glorious couple of hours, just what I needed to recharge.

It was enough for me.

What about you?  How often do you spend time away from your child? Would you ever go/have you ever gone on a long vacation without your little one? Has anyone ever made you feel guilty for spending too little or too much time away?

One of Rhianna’s all-time fave vacations was a road trip along the Pacific Coast Highway with her husband. She gets lost in daydreams about making the same trip with little ones buckled in the backseat. She faithfully renews her subscription to Budget Travel magazine every year.

8 Ways to Hurt a Marriage

Our first date……7.5 years, 1 baby, and some marriage counseling, ago

Here at TOBB, we talk a lot about parenting philosophies, motherhood issues, and the nitty-gritty of hot topics. But often missing from our discussion are our partners in crime: husbands and wives. In honor of my own husband and the crazy first 15 months of parenthood, I wanted to draw attention to ways in which a marriage can unknowingly suffer. I’d like to say upfront what this post is not. First, I am not a psychologist, counselor, religious leader, or social worker. I am married and haven’t been for particularly long, about 5 years. In those 5 years, I’ve learned more from my mistakes as a wife and my miscommunication with my husband than what I’ve taken from any motivational marriage article, book, or conference. Throw a baby (or children)  in the mix, and even the best marriage, mine included, will weather some tough times. There are many ways to hurt a loved one and to allow a marriage to suffer. My list avoids the big ones (cheating, addiction, abuse, etc.), but focuses on those daily culprits that many of us allow to fill the void between two people. So if you want to hurt a marriage, to cause those seeds of unhappiness, doubt, and pain, these are eight ways that will definitely do it:

  1. Be too busy. There should be (nearly) nothing more important than your spouse. But how many of us are guilty of playing on the phone or reading email, confusing necessary (but not time sensitive) tasks with the urgent, and filling our days to the brim?
  2. Put other relationships ahead of your spouse. As parents, we are called to love and care for our (sometimes very needy) children. We have friendships that need attention and extended family relationships to support. But all of these relationships do indeed take time, and more so, take time away from your significant other.
  3. Communicate negatively. Our interactions, whether intentional or not, verbal or nonverbal, communicate something. What does the tone of your voice tell your spouse? Does it communicate that you’re impatient, irritated, tired, or angry? Or does it communicate support, love, and patience?
  4. Hold grudges. When your significant other does something that rubs you the wrong way, do you hold it against them? It can be all too easy to nurse a grudge against a loved one, especially if you don’t expect them to retaliate. What does holding grudges teach our children about the world and making mistakes?
  5. Ignore his or her needs. Do you find yourself avoiding intimacy or speaking and interacting with love because you’re: a) tired; b) thinking about something else; c) too distracted to see your spouse’s need for attention? I truly believe this one will hurt a marriage more than any of the others listed above. Think of how a child craves a hug and loving words on a daily basis. Do you do the same for your spouse?
  6. Support monotony. Want to really hurt a marriage? Then try to avoid having hobbies, interest, or dreams together. There is nothing worse, in my book, than when spouses become more like roommates than lovers. There is something, however, magical and uniting that happens when a couple dreams and tries new things together.
  7. Never spend time alone. Do you make it a priority to spend time together sans kids? Or does alone time tie for last on the To Do list? I get that it is tough to have an official date night, but when the kids are asleep or away from the house, how do you spend your time? With your spouse or separately?
  8. Avoid actively listening to your spouse. Do you REALLY hear what your sweetie has to say? Do you listen with your ears, eyes, and heart? Or do you halfheartedly offer support and are often too distracted to really hear them?

Marriage is a tough gig, no doubt about it. Caring and loving on  a 24/7 basis for years and years is ridiculously difficult. And although I am guilty of many of the issues above, I  see my relationship with my husband as my number one priority. Our love and support for each other is the foundation on which we have and raise children, and to treat it as any less would be against our vows. So let’s turn this positive: how do you show your significant other that you love and support them?


Kate and her husband, Kirk, met at Walt Disney World while lifeguarding at the same hotel. He offered to cook her dinner that night, and well, things haven’t changed much since. Although they are both guilty of committing many of the mistakes above, their marriage has survived countless moves, grad school, new jobs, and a baby.

Earn it, Dads

One recent night, my son, almost 3 ½,  rejected me.  It’s happened a few times before, but that night was the end of a hard day; I was just feeling fragile and it stung.  He was upset in his bed, I went up to hug him, and he said “No. Daddy.”

Hand in hand with the hurt, I was also thrilled for my husband.  He deserves that honor and had to wait to earn it.  It was me who was pregnant, went through labor and birth, breastfed and became a full-time caregiver while my spouse did none of those things.  His bond with J has been more gradual, but boy has it become sweet!

Amidst all the hoopla and bullcrap over the provocative Time Magazine cover, I think many people missed a short opinion piece tucked in with their “Attachment Parenting coverage” called The Detached Dads Manifesto.  It was a weird column that immediately chaffed me and felt forced- an essay in need of a red pen.  But the author must have done something right because this line has been sitting with me since I read it:  “There is one valuable role for the father when it comes to attachment parenting: he can argue against the whole thing.”

Wth? Is that not the most screwed up thing? What kind of partner would do that?

When I am not working my tail off as a mother, I work my tail off as community builder and supporter of mothers and children.  For three years now when I could have stayed in my yoga pants and tended to the needs of my own gang, I have chosen to walk the walk.  C’mon in, Brethren (Sistren?), my door is open. It feels like a calling to share the AP love, encourage, empathize, plan events, make sure new Moms know where LLL meets, hug the hormonal/unshowered/ sleep-deprived and beautiful women who show up on my doorstep. Maybe my cheerleading helps them stand up to pushy in-laws or bosses or Pediatricians, reminds them of their rights, and normalizes their instincts.

Do you know the lament I hear most? “My husband is giving me a hard time”.

Ugh, that is so infuriating! In most cases this child was planned and wanted-  some couples I know even struggled with infertility. Then the miracle happens and the movie montage cues up-nine months of dreaming, painting the nursery, thinking of names, talking to your belly, taking photos of the changing profile, feeling kicks, childbirth classes, registering, and passing the baby care books back and forth on the couch.

Then you get home from the hospital and realize all that fun hasn’t prepared you at all.

Which is why that essay sucked. Nervous couples need no extra prompting to argue.  Trust me.  And first time moms don’t need to have their instincts challenged (more), especially by their best friend.

Dr. Sears gives Dads the 411 here.  But in brief, Partners, please just support your wives- tell them how wonderful you think breastfeeding is, especially when Mom is struggling.  Embrace safe cosleeping.  And for goodness sake– learn how to rock a sling, wrap or carrier, which will benefit 3 people at once: Baby and Dad bond, Mom gets a touch break.  And for added bonuses, Dad gets to feel like a champ for putting Babe to sleep, AND Dad gets to feel like a stud because guys wearing babies are way hotter than Fifty Shades of Grey.

Rebecca’s spouse has a good sense of humor, most of the time.  He is attached to their sons.